I am in Prague. I am in the old town square, drinking a cappuccino and the astronomical clock designed by Kepler is tolling the half hour. I am so happy to be in Europe and so happy that I have pretty much no jet lag.
So here’s how it all began. I had my last day of English Camp at Seorim Elem. School and then we all went to a restaurant for sangyuptang, that whole-chicken soup which I’ve had more times than I care for. It’s as dull as you can get. I invited Mallory and James out for a drink in Bupyeong and we ended up at a bar called Woodstock; not for the concert place of legend in the 60’s but for the little yellow bird in the Peanuts cartoons. Koreans have a thing for those characters even though they have no idea who they actually are. Marc and Stuart eventually showed up.
I did end up explaining the details of the “incident” that occurred a couple weeks ago. Some of you know what happened, some may not. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about it at all; I’m not afraid of the memory of it. Stuart told me he thought I was very brave. I suppose I am a “strong” person. Many people keep telling me that, but I’m not really sure what that even means. There are plenty of other ways in which I am not very strong. Anyhow-
So I was finishing my cleaning and packing until about 4am and still had to get some clothes dry, make up the clean bed sheets, put all the garbage on the curb, plus go over the floor once more with a swiffer cloth. I tried to sleep but, as tired as I was, I couldn’t. I’d drift off and suddenly I’d feel anxiety about leaving and my heart would pound and wake me up. I’d set my alarm for 7:30, since Lina was coming to pick me up at 8, but I gave up trying to sleep and got up to finish preparing at 7. Lina came at 8:15 and I gave her a CD that I burned for her along with a note and this dollar bill I’d carried around with me from the beginning of my year for Minji, her daughter. I’m going to miss that little psycho.
We took the long Incheon bridge to the airport and met Mallory there. She lives on the airport island, so it had been thought a good idea for Lina to drive her to Seorim for the last day of English camp after dropping me off. My voice wavered a tiny bit as we said goodbye, but it was quick, so I didn’t have time to be emotional.
Once on the Lufthansa plane, people spoke German to me for the first time in a long while. Having considered this situation weeks prior, my concern had been that my foreign language switch was currently set on Korean and German was not going to come to me very easily. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. No matter how many times I fought to remind myself not to say “ne” (sounds like ‘nay’), I did. Every single time. Since ne means “yes” in Korean (as well as a good response word to just about anything), and means “no” in German, the German attendant was doubtless finding me more than a little confusing.
I didn’t sleep very much on the plane and once we were in Munich, I was too elated to feel tired. Elated, yet I felt more comfortable with the mob of Koreans around me than with the Germans. I sat writing in my other notebook, drinking my first glass of REAL weizen while waiting for my next flight.
Once on the plane to Prague, I sat with a Japanese woman who was very kind. Mind, I’m less familiar with the Japanese than with Koreans, but they’re culturally similar enough that I was more comfortable with her than others. She helped me put my laptop case in the storage above the seats. I bow automatically these days, so even though I said “thank you” in English, I wasn’t embarrassed that I bowed to her. It was appropriate. And I would’ve felt a little humiliated if I’d bowed to a European.
Once at the airport, my luggage came really fast, I got a taxi, and eventually got myself sorted at the hostel (Old Prague Hostel, right in the middle of the Old Town). My room has 10 beds in all with a myriad of different people. Two German girls, a couple other Americans, and three Malaysians. The Malaysians are very friendly and are well within my comfort zone. I admit to feeling a little intimidated by Europeans now. They are astronomically different from Koreans behaviorally and I’ve had to adjust myself. In any case, that leads back to where I am now: Prague. Square. Coffee. Everything right with the world.